At the beginning of November, the new Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, Mr.M.Ramaswamy I.A.S., said that his most important task was to acquire the land for Auroville. One and a half months later Auroville Today requested an update.
AUROVILLE TODAY: You have made acquiring the land in the City area your number one priority. Why?
Mr. Ramaswamy: Matrimandir is the soul of Auroville. All the land in the city area should be part of the soul.
If private landholders are allowed to remain in this area they may engage in activities not in accordance with the soul or the ideals of Auroville, and this will hinder our development. So by acquiring all the land in the City area for the Auroville Foundation we prevent any activity which is detrimental to our ideals. We will not allow this to happen.
But wasn't a Government Order passed some years ago which would have prevented unwanted developments in the city and greenbelt?
There is a Government Order which says that private landowners cannot develop their land within the City and Greenbelt without getting a no-objection certificate from the Auroville Foundation. However, that Order is yet to be notified and so is not yet in force. I am pursuing this matter and we await the notification at any time.
How will you go about securing the remaining land?
By 21st February, 2007 I want, with the Government of Tamil Nadu's permission, to have all the government-owned land around Matrimandir transferred to the Auroville Foundation. There is other government land in the City area, amounting to approximately 25 acres, and we also want to have this transferred. This may take a little longer but the necessary steps are already being taken in this regard. I and other members of the Auroville Land Coordination Committee (LCC) are also in constant contact with private landowners in the City area. The LCC sets targets and reviews the progress weekly. I want to consolidate all landholdings in the City area either through acquisition of land by the Government, or purchase of land by the Auroville Foundation, or by exchange of land; in other words, through exchanging outlying Auroville land for private land in the city.
What role do you play in the Land Coordination Committee?
My role is to give guidance. I also take personal responsibility for dealing with the larger landowners and the more difficult cases. Things are moving, we are making good progress.
What about securing the remaining land in the greenbelt?
My first priority is to have all the land in the city area. When we have time we will move on to consolidating land in the Greenbelt area.
Ideally, my goal is that we secure the entire greenbelt also, but here there are more constraints. There is a lot of land in the Greenbelt that does not belong to Auroville, and much money is required to purchase all this land. Many landowners are ready to sell their land, but we need more funds to purchase it. Regarding land exchange, we don't have so much land available as some of the outlying Auroville land has houses on it, and we can't remove them.
There is much concern at present regarding a private landowner's plan to build a college in the Greenbelt .
I am dealing personally with this and I am confident of an outcome that will satisfy all parties.
You have worked for many years in Maharashtra and held many senior Government posts there. Why did you apply for this job?
I've known about Auroville for many years as I come from this part of the world. The post of Secretary to the Auroville Foundation was vacant for almost a year because there were no takers. Why? Because the impression of Auroville outside is not too favourable. Also this posting is a very senior one and people at Joint-Secretary level prefer to live in the city rather than come to a rural setting like this.
So after the post had been circulated a number of times and nobody had applied I thought, ‘Somebody has to do the work, why not me?' I saw it as a challenge. Not so much dealing with the people, but with the land matters. That's what I want to be judged on at the end of my tenure. If I have been able to contribute something towards the consolidation of the land, that will be my achievement.
Have you set yourself any other targets during your tenure as Secretary?
No. I am purely an administrator, I am most interested in good administration, and land consolidation is my only target at present. My objective is very clear, there is no dilly-dallying. With Mother's help and the help of all of you I know we will succeed.
See also: The Secretary in our web pages